Fourteen Hands-On, Educational, Full-Body Things Your Kids Can Do While You’re Working

Here is a short list of activities that engage children’s whole bodies and that they can do more-or-less independently, depending on their developmental level. Even toddlers can do most of them with supervision, but they can be extended for any older age to get something out of. These are all things that don’t require any special materials. Your kids will be problem-solving, moving their bodies, developing their creativity, and developing important social skills if they do it with a sibling.

  • cardboard sculptures: Save cereal boxes, paper towel rolls, etc. and challenge yourself to make: a person, a chair, a table or bridge to hold as many books as you can, a robot, a dog, a giraffe… what more can you make? Get creative!
  • tall towers: Build a tower as high as you can out of coins, books, pillows, pencils, popsicle sticks, socks, shoes, or whatever else you have a lot of that won’t break if it falls. What do you notice? Which shapes work well and which don’t? Which textures work better than others? Why do you think that is? Here’s a tower my akonga made out of just pencils. How tall can you go?

  • chalk paint: 1 cup flour in a bowl plus 1 cup water plus a few drops of your favourite colour of food dye –> mix thoroughly with a fork and keep adding water by the Tbsp until it is paint consistency. Head out to your driveway with a paintbrush and your thinking cap on. Warning: If you let it dry, this may take a few scrubs to come off after baking in the sun. If you don’t have a paintbrush, fingers and sticks work great too! In addition to regular painting pictures, you could:
    • Paint your own hop scotch.
    • Paint your own life-sized maze. Challenge a sibling or parent to go through it without getting stuck!
  • water “paint:” Literally go out in the sun with a bucket of water and a paintbrush and “paint” with water on the concrete. The sun will erase your paintings so you have a clean canvas to start over with. 🙂
  • kitchen creations: Find a recipe to follow or invent your own! Share your creations with your family at the next meal time. Take photos and share them with your friends. When you’ve experimented enough and have discovered a few recipes you really like, write them up, illustrate them, and make a family cookbook. *Note: Toddlers can do their own version of this activity if you give them a few containers of different ingredients that you are happy for them to experiment with, preferably lots of really different textures, e.g. flour, sugar or salt, bananas or another fruit, ice cubes, coconut oil, and cereal. Set them up on the kitchen floor with newspaper or a tarp and a few large bowls, and let them experiment.
  • leaf prints: Collect the most interesting leaves you can find in your yard or on a walk around your neighbourhood with your family. Flat ones work the best for this activity. You can use paint and paper or get creative with food dye or black tea (really cool designs if you leave it to soak for a few hours and to dry for another few hours) instead of paint and spare cardboard or larger leaves instead of regular paper. What designs can you make with your leaves? Optional: Collect flowers and sticks to print with as well. When you are finished printing, you can dry out the flowers and make a collage.
  • symmetry prints: Take a spare piece of paper and fold it exactly in half. To do this, you will need to make sure to line the corners up as closely as you can. Make a crease, and unfold it. Paint half a design on one half of the page. Fold it again, press it together, and carefully unfold it again. You have a symmetrical painting! Challenge yourself to make these paintings: A heart, a butterfly, a flower, a person, a house, a bird, a volcano, and an abstract design of your own. What else can you make?
  • play dough: I love the recipe from A Day in First Grade. She has a great idea to make your play dough “magic,” too! Tip: If you don’t have food dye or want to stay natural, I love using turmeric for bright yellow dough.
  • choreograph a dance: Write out the moves, talk through and edit any changes you want to make, practice till you know it really well, film yourself performing using a tablet or phone, and share with your family and friends!
  • write and perform a play: Raid your family’s closet (with permission!!) for costumes. Write your script, film your performance, and share with your loved ones!
  • collage: For this one, you need glue, old magazines, playbills, or advertisements, and something to stick images on – could be computer paper, cardboard, or even giant leaves. Pull out a stack of pictures and get cutting. Choose images, shapes, or even colours that you find interesting. Spend time arranging them just right before you glue them down. You can add flowers, leaves, and found objects as well. Think outside the box!

  • obstacles course or huts: You can make these in the house or in the backyard if you’re fortunate enough to have one. Use pillows, old sheets, sticks, rocks, piles of leaves, sand, cardboard, clothing, blocks, boxes, and anything else you can find. Here is a great article from Heather Greutman of of Growing Hands On Kids about the importance of vestibular input, and other activities to support it.
  • coffee filter art: If you have some spare coffee filters and food dye, this is a sensory art activity that will fascinate kids of all ages for hours. If you don’t have coffee filters, paper towels work as well. Mix a few drops of food dye into a small bowl of water. Use two or three colours per project and see how the colours mix. How is it different if you drop the colours right on or if you scrunch up the filters and dip them, like a tie dye project?
  • treasure hunts:
    • rainbow 🌈 treasure hunt – e.g. find 5 things of every colour of the rainbow in the house or garden and make a picture
    • texture 🐻 treasure hunt: something rough, something squishy, something soft, something hard, something smooth, something (or someone!) furry/fuzzy
    • shape 🔹 treasure hunt: Find these shapes in your backyard or home. Take a photo of each one, put the photos in an editor program on your computer or print them if you can, and make a collage! Circle, rectangle (remember a square is a kind of rectangle so it would count), hexagon, octagon. Can you find any more?
    • words 📖 treasure hunt: Grab the nearest book you have. Find a noun that ends in each letter of the alphabet. Write all the words you’ve found in fancy letters, illustrate them, and make a poster.
    • picture book 📚 treasure hunt: Grab a pile of picture books. Find an animal, someone playing a sport, family, a plant, someone eating, a picture of wintertime, someone playing music, a pair of glasses, a bow tie, a tree, a flower, and a cloud.
    • Design your own treasure hunt!

Note: All photos, unless otherwise specified, are my own. I don’t have photos to share for all of these activities at the moment because I’ve always done them with my school kids, and of course I can’t post photos of them online for security. If you have any photos of your kids’ art that you’d like to share, please feel free to message them to me, and I can include them and credit your blog. Cheers!

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